The Visual Prosthesis Laboratory is developing a device-based therapy to correct complete vision loss due to diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa, macular degeneration, glaucoma, and optic neuritis, along with vision loss due to trauma to the eyes. In cases where the eye is no longer sensitive to light, the remainder of the visual system is often intact, but unable to respond to external stimulation. We are utilizing the highly advanced techniques of deep brain stimulation to provide an alternate pathway for visual information to enter the brain by implanting electrodes in the lateral geniculate nucleus of the thalamus (LGN) and sending processed information from eyeglass-mounted digital cameras into the visual pathway one stage after the eyes.
The primary project within the laboratory is to build a machine-brain interface that can be used to take the output from a digital camera and deliver it directly into the visual parts of the brain. While the idea is very simple, the details are quite complex and will require many years of concentrated effort before we will be able to treat patients on a regular basis.
We also collaborate with the Hatsopoulos Lab at the University of Chicago on analysis of single-cell cortical signals to understand the underlying representation used in motor cortex. The larger context of that project is the development of brain-machine interfaces that can be used to drive motor prosthesis to assist paralyzed patients.